Like Father Like Son

Yesterday morning I was thinking about what it looks for God to rejoice. Jesus taught that “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Lk. 15:10). And if the angels are before the throne of God, then who’s before the angels? God. So, who’s doing the rejoicing? God. So, what does that look like when God shows joy? I can only imagine. But that He would do so when a fallen son or daughter of Adam comes to faith is worthy of such imagination.

In one of my readings this morning I read of more rejoicing. And this time, it’s rejoicing before God.

When [the LORD] established the heavens, I was there; when He drew a circle on the face of the deep, when He made firm the skies above, when He established the fountains of the deep, when He assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside Him, like a master workman, and I was daily His delight, rejoicing before Him always, rejoicing in His inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.

(Proverbs 8:27-31 ESV)

Wisdom calls out (Prov. 8:1). She speaks truth (8:6-7a). She contends that her instruction is better than silver, her knowledge to be valued more than choice gold. That she herself “is better than jewels, and all that you desire cannot compare” (8:10-11). She loves those who love her, and outlandishly promises those who seek her that they will find her and, along with her, “riches and honor . . . enduring wealth and righteousness” (8:17-18).

But here’s the thing about Wisdom that grabs me every time I read this chapter. She was there for creation. She was present when the heavens where established (8:27). But not there as a mere bystander. Instead, there side by side with the LORD God, as Creator. As a “master workman” engaged in the work of creation (8:30a). The LORD’s “daily delight” (8:30b), she was there when the world was formed. There through its habitation. So if the wisdom in Proverbs is intended to point to one who personifies wisdom, then who is she pointing to? Cue again Sunday School Answers 101 . . . Jesus!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.

(John 1:1-3 ESV)

Proverbs is about Jesus. Jesus as the Way of true life. As the One who calls to the children of man to follow in the ways for which they were created. As the One who says buy of Me. As the one who promises blessings, honor, and ultimate riches for those who seek Him diligently. And so, Proverbs is about behaviors that indicate when we’re walking in that way and when we’re not. If we have a problem with living out the pragmatics of Proverbs, we have a Jesus problem. But I digress . . . back to the text in Proverbs 8.

So, if Wisdom is rejoicing always before the LORD, delighting in the children of man, then, I’m thinkin’, Jesus is rejoicing. Like Father like Son.

The One who Himself is the Father’s daily delight, rejoices before Him. Rejoicing in the Creation. Delighting, as some translations put it, in the human family. So pumped about the work begun in Genesis 1 and 2, that when it comes off the rails in Genesis 3 He’s ready to do whatever is needed to redeem, reconcile, and restore it.

So, what does it look like for Jesus to express joy? Not a fist pump. Not a whooping victory shout. Not a happy dance. But more like a nail through the fist. A dying cry of “It is finished!” on the cross. A motionless, lifeless body laying in the tomb.

. . . looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame . . .

(Hebrews 12:2 ESV)

That’s what rejoicing looks like — like redemption. Wisdom the Creator so pumped about creation’s potential that He humbled Himself “by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross,” (Php. 2:8) as the Lamb of God.

Loving those who love Him. And loving them to the uttermost (Jn. 13:1).

What abounding love. What amazing grace. To Him be all the glory.

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Joy Before the Angels

Is it irreverent to imagine God pumping His fist and shouting, “Yes!” If so, then how do we imagine God expressing joy?

Can’t really say He’d be on cloud nine . . . He towers over cloud nine, and every other cloud you can number. On top of the world? Over the moon? No, that doesn’t seem right. Of course He is, that’s where He dwells, the earth is His footstool. Pleased as punch? Don’t even really know what that means. Pumped? Stoked? Nah. Doing a happy dance? Seemed hardly fitting coming from King David, doesn’t seem right to picture in one’s mind the Almighty Creator doing a two-step. Nope. That’s doesn’t work either.

So how do we imagine God expressing joy before others? ‘Cause, I’m thinkin’, He does.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” ~ Jesus

(Luke 15:8-10 ESV)

A few years ago, I noticed how the ESV breaks with the other translations on that last phrase. It’s most commonly translated “joy in the presence of God’s angels” — like it’s the angels who are rejoicing among themselves. But the ESV’s a bit different. To think of there being joy before the angels of God can make a big difference in how you understand who’s expressing the joy.

So what’s before the angels in heaven? What’s in their line of sight? Who are they in the face of? Who’s occupying the place before them? What’s in their presence?

Safest Sunday School answer ever: God!

And all the angels were standing around the throne . . . , and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God . . . ”

(Revelation 7:11 ESV)

So, if the angels are standing around the throne, and they fall on their faces before the throne to worship God, then isn’t God before them? And so again, if there is joy before the angels over one sinner who repents, then isn’t it God who’s doing the rejoicing? Like I said, I’m thinkin’ . . .

And it’s kind of consistent with the story Jesus told. It’s the woman, the coin-seeker, the finder in this lost-and-found endeavor, who calls together her friends and she’s the one doing the rejoicing. “Rejoice with me!” she says. So isn’t the mapping such that the woman represents God, who through Jesus came to seek and save the lost? Thus, isn’t it also God, then, who calls together His friends, the angels, and says to them, “Rejoice with Me!”

God rejoicing over one sinner who repents! What does that even look like? But maybe, more importantly, what does that tell us about our God?

Did He rejoice over me, when I believed? Like, really rejoice? Fist-pumping, “Yes” declaring, happy dance rejoicing? Maybe not like that. But however God rejoices before the angels — if we believe His word, if Jesus was telling a truth tale — then yeah, the God of Creation rejoiced when I was translated from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of light. That’s a full-meal deal! That’s a lot to chew on!

My head knows He loves me. That He loved me so much He sent His one and only Son. I get that. But do I really get that He would love me to the point of rejoicing before the angels when I feebly confessed my love for Him?

And what could that look like?

The LORD your God is in your midst, a Mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.

(Zephaniah 3:17 ESV)

Singing. Loud singing. Is that how God shows joy before the angels, by singing over His redeemed people? Almost as hard to imagine as pumping His fist. But a lot more appropriate.

What amazing, abundant grace. Only for His ever-deserved, joy-filled glory.

—–

Got 5 more minutes? This song came to mind as I was hovering over this . . . ’cause if grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking . . . O how He love us!

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Guarding with Our Lips

If I’m picking up what the king is laying down, then, if you can articulate truth, truth can protect you. For, if you can guard it with your lips, it will guard you from her lips.

My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge. For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil . . .

(Proverbs 5:1-3 ESV)

The king’s been exhorting his son to pursue lady wisdom. To seek her as silver and gold. To esteem her more precious than jewels. To know that long life is in her right hand. Riches and honor, in her left. And the ways in which she leads are pleasant. Her paths bring peace. For she is a tree of life and holds the key to unlocking eternal blessing (Prov. 3:13-18). But she’s not the only one calling out, presenting a way of life.

There’s another woman, warns the king. Another voice, a seductive voice offering an alternative path, calling out, “Follow me.” While her words are sweet, and her invitation is alluring, her ways are destruction. Her paths lead only and always to utter ruin. She is a siren of sin.

And saying no to her honey-dripping lips is dependent on what your lips are able to guard.

That your lips may guard knowledge. The phrase struck me as kind of odd this morning. I don’t normally think of guarding something with my lips.

Very aware of the need to guard my lips and to protect them (Ps. 39:1, Ps. 141:3, James 1:26). But guarding knowledge with my lips? Hmmm. Had to chew on that for a bit.

The son is exhorted by his dad to be attentive to wisdom and incline his heart to understanding. In so doing, it will build muscle for discerning the difference between the voices of the two women calling to him and the very, very different paths they offer. And evidence of how deep it has sunk in, becoming part of mind and heart, will be manifest in his speech, his ability to articulate what is good and true. To defend it. To guard it. And when it has sunk so deeply he is able to speak of it freely, then it becomes his greatest defense against counterfeit voices and paths of folly.

Kind of makes sense. Things that you know well are things you can speak of well. If you can’t really say it, you probably don’t really get it. And so, says the king, attend to lady wisdom so intently, listen so carefully, internalize so diligently, that you can defend the truth articulately. For when you can guard it with your lips, it will protect from the forbidden woman’s lips.

Kind of a simple way to evaluate my own level of protection against the sultry, deceptive, alluring voice of the world. How well can I speak of Wisdom’s ways? How well can I articulate the gospel — the full gospel, from creation through fall through redemption through resurrection? Can I share the ways of the kingdom of heaven? Can I speak of the dynamics of the daily struggle between Spirit and flesh? Can I noodle my way through principles that apply to given situations? Am I familiar enough with the things of God, the ways of man, and the keys for reconciliation, to be able to explain them to someone else? If I can talk of such things, having internalized such knowledge, then I can guard it. And then, it’s able to guard me.

Make sense?

The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools.

(Proverbs 15:7 ESV)

There is gold and abundance of costly stones, but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.

(Proverbs 20:15 ESV)

O for a heart to pursue Wisdom, so that I might know her well enough to talk of her capably. For a continued desire to so internalize His Word that I am able to verbalize His Word. So that His Word might guard my ways.

By His grace. For His glory.

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A Full Physical

Guard your heart, and it will impact how you live. Watch how you live, and it will protect your heart. That’s what I’m picking up this morning from what I think Solomon is laying down.

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.
Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.

(Proverbs 4:23-27 ESV)

A bit of a full physical conducted by the Great Physician’s Helper, this morning. Covers the bases . . . heart, mouth, eyes, mind, and feet.

The king’s been encouraging his son to “Get wisdom”, to pursue insight. Don’t forget her, he says. Don’t forsake her, he says. Love her. Prize her highly. Embrace her dearly. (Prov. 4:5-8).

And why has dad been harping so much on getting wisdom? Because it’s a zero sum game. No neutral ground. If you’re not purposefully walk down wisdom’s street, you’re on your way to stumbling down the dark allies of the bad side of town (4:18-19). The path of the wicked. The way of evil. The road to be avoided. The street from which it’s best just to pass on (4:13-15).

It’s one or the other. The way of wisdom or the way of fools. Insight’s thoroughfare, or the simpleton’s dead end. Either taking the easy way, entering through the wide gate chosen by the masses which leads to destruction or, by God’s grace and enabling, opting for the narrow gate, the sure to be more difficult way, which leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14).

It’s one or the other. And from time to time, it’s good to get your bearings. And that, through a full physical.

How’s the heart? Gotta start there. It’s the source of everything else. For it’s out of the heart that true life flows or evil is birthed (Matt. 15:19). If the heart’s hurting, it will soon manifest itself through the rest of the body — the mouth, eyes, mind, and feet. So guard your heart. Post a sentry over it. One that carries a two-edged sword. One able, and not afraid, to splay soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and call out the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12).

Then, what about your speech? Gracious? Seasoned with salt (Col. 4:6)? Or off kilter and off color?

How about your eyes? Focused on the right things? Looking to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2)? Or askew? Looking over at the “greener grass” on the world’s side of the fence?

How about what’s going on between the ears? Is the mind set on things above (Col. 3:2)? Engaged in the divine dynamic of inner transformation through ongoing renewal? Actively filtering and testing the many inputs coming at it in order to discern the good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom. 12:2)? Or, set on things below. More interested in the world’s apparent wisdom than heaven’s eternal ways?

And then, the feet. Check out the feet. Where they heading? What paths are they choosing? Walking a straight line or swerving all over the place, with no apparent overall destination in view?

Not judging. Just checking. Not pointing fingers. More of a self-examination. Not to evoke shame, but to know afresh the power of the cross. Not so I’d simply suck it up, pick it up, and do better. Instead, through the enabling Spirit of God living in me, that I’d affirm anew my desire to know Wisdom.

. . . you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption . . .

(1Corinthians 1:30 ESV)

Thank God for full physicals.

Those too, because of His grace and for His glory.

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In His Confidence

Not gonna lie, I’ve always liked being on the inside. Jazzed by being around the table. Not necessarily having to be the one who makes things happen, content if that’s left to others, but also not wanting to be that guy who all of a sudden looks up one day, gives his head a shake, and dumbfoundedly asks, “Uh, what just happened?”

I don’t think it’s a power thing. It’s an engagement thing. I don’t think it’s FOMO, fear of missing out, but more like FOMOO, a fear of mindlessly opting out.

If someone’s gonna let me into their inner circle, I’m in. If someone’s willing to take me into their confidence, I’m good for the taking. Especially if that Someone is the God of creation!

Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways, for the devious person is an abomination to the LORD, but the upright are in His confidence.

(Proverbs 3:31-32 ESV)

The upright are in His confidence. Chew on that for a bit. Let that sink in. Talk about being on the inside!

In His confidence. Literally, invited into secret counsel. Part of the family conversation. Received as an intimate friend. Talk about your seat at the table!

The psalmist says we should bless the LORD and forget not all His benefits (Ps. 103:1-2). Being in His confidence is one of those benefits. Let’s not forget it. Bless the LORD, O my soul!

Think about all the stuff we know which we would have never known apart from being in His confidence. Stuff about creation and how it reveals the Creator. Insider knowledge as to the real reason all people matter, because they are image bearers of God. A practical understanding of where things went south and a confident answer, along with a working knowledge, for how things can be restored.

Not only do we have a handle on the macro picture of history, we’re also prophets able to talk confidently about the future. Optimists, even in depressing and cynical times, because we know who wins. Having been brought into the secret council of heavenly happenings, we’ve got the tools to go out and be of maximum earthly good.

And that, because we are the upright. Not in ourselves, but in His Son. Not because of our best efforts, but through His finished work on the cross. Not because we deserve it, but because — and this we know via insider knowledge — He desired it!

No need to look around and wonder what’s happening. Instead, we look up and confidently declare, “I know the One who’s making it happen!”

For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD to see and to hear His word, or who has paid attention to His word and listened?

(Jeremiah 23:18 ESV)

The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear Him, and He makes known to them His covenant.

(Psalm 25:14 ESV)

Again, not gonna lie, I like being on the inside. Joy at having a seat at the table. Blessed by being in His confidence. How about you?

Only because of His grace. Might it always be for His glory.

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His Perfect Patience

Thank God I’m not Jesus. Or I think there may have been fewer synagogues left standing at the end of the day or, at the very least, fewer synagogue rulers.

Reading in Luke 13 and, for some reason, I’m particularly enraged at the hardness of heart of one particular “ruler of the synagogue.” While Jesus confronted his sin, calling him a hypocrite, I think I’d have been tempted to call him home . . . if you know what I mean.

Jesus is teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath. And there in front of Him is a woman unable to stand up straight, disabled by a demon. And while this might be the first time Jesus sees her, the folks at “church” have seen her attending meeting this way for eighteen years. Eighteen years! Looking at her toes 24/7 for eighteen years! And when Jesus sees her, He calls her to Himself, and says to her, “Woman you are freed from your disability.” And, after laying His hands on her, she stands up straight.

Praise God! Right? A miracle! True? Best Sabbath at church ever! Ya’ think? No wonder she glorifies God. But wait . . . before anybody else gets a chance to offer an “Amen!” or “Hallelujah,” an alternate perspective is offered.

But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.”

(Luke 13:14 ESV)

What?!?! This woman, a daughter of Abraham, who had been bound by Satan for eighteen years (13:16) is standing there tall and free, and this guy is indignant? Displeased? Grieved in his heart? Vexed in his soul? Because Jesus worked a miracle on a non-working day. Give your head a shake, man! Unbelievable!

Like I said, good thing it wasn’t me who had to deal with his hardness of heart. My immediate inclination would be to do more than just call him out on his hypocrisy.

But, lest I think that the Spirit was helping me experience some “righteous wrath”, I then turn to 1Timothy and realize that the Spirit was actually setting me up for some “perfect patience.”

I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. . . . But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life.

(1Timothy 1:12-14,16 ESV)

The ruler of the synagogue was a hypocrite. A real jerk. But Paul was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent opponent. A real threat.

The woman in the synagogue received healing, and stood up straight. Paul received mercy, and stood up for the Lord.

How? By the Savior’s perfect patience. Through overflowing grace.

So that all who are crippled by sin — whether a stooped over woman, a cynical synagogue rule, or a self-commissioned persecutor of the church — might have the opportunity to hear the Savior say, “Come to Me.” Be healed. Be made whole. And stand before the Son of God, face to face.

Not that righteous wrath isn’t deserved for jerk church keepers. But praise God that many don’t get what they deserve because of Christ’s perfect patience. Not willing that any should perish (2Pet. 3:9). Merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Ex. 34:6). Rich in forbearance. His patience, His kindness leading lost souls to repentance (Rom. 2:4).

Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1Tim. 3:15). Hard-hearted synagogue rulers. Heavy-handed church persecutors. Even devotional writers quick to judge.

Thank God for His perfect patience.

Because of overflowing grace. For His unending glory.

Amen?

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Stir It Up

It’s one of those verses in Scripture that, for me, spikes the awe-o-meter. But not because it’s reveals explicitly the glory of God, or describes directly the nature of His holy character, or chronicles thoroughly the mighty work of His hands. Rather, its focus is a pagan king, who acted in a not-so-pagan manner — because of a glorious, holy, mighty God. And “all” God did was stir it up.

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.”

(Ezra 1:1-2 ESV)

The LORD, God of heaven, stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia. Literally, He wakened it. He opened the eyes of his heart. He roused the sensitivity of His inner being. Just as God had moved a pagan king 70 years earlier to be the means to judge His people and rip them from their land, so He moved again in the spirit of a powerful political figure to restore His people to their land, giving them the task of rebuilding the place where the glory of God had dwelt. Amazing!

We’re not told exactly how God did this with Cyrus. Was a it a dream? A vision? A word from a trusted counselor? Safe bet that Daniel had some influence, been used of God in some manner to make the God of heaven known. But specifically, how the king came to the conclusion that he was being directed to let the people of Israel go and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem is unknown.

But another reading this morning perhaps offers a clue.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;

(Proverbs 1:7a ESV)

The fear of the LORD, says Solomon, that’s the starting place. Mark that as your true north, and the Spirit of God has something to work with in leading someone down the paths of life. Start with humbling yourself before God, and it greatly increases your chance of being led by God. Acknowledge a sovereign, all mighty God who reigns supreme, and it has a way of bringing clarity to the life you’ve been given to steward.

And I think Cyrus, however it came about, knew the fear of the LORD.

The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth . . .

Cyrus was a big kahuna throughout the known world, but He confessed that there was a God who was LORD over all in an unknown realm beyond his world. Cyrus, by His military might and means, had conquered all the kingdoms of the earth, yet he acknowledged that, ultimately, they had been given to him by a God, according to His purposes, who sovereignly and powerfully ruled in heaven. Cyrus knew he was a big deal, but he also confessed we wasn’t the biggest deal. And that, I think, is at least a part of what it means to fear the Lord.

And that’s what God had to work with. With that acknowledgement, with that posture, the Spirit of God was able stir the spirit of a man to do the will of God.

Humility which acknowledges the rule of God has a way of awakening an individual towards the mind of God. Being real about who I am in light of who God is, can rouse the soul to desire to walk in the ways of God. To confess that all I have He has given, can prime the pump for the Spirit’s work in directing how to steward what I have.

Fear the LORD. And He’ll stir it up.

By His grace. For His glory.

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Interpret the Present Time

Wrapping up Luke 12 this morning. Don’t know that I’ve ever read these past few daily readings with such an awareness of their connectedness (that’s one of the dangers of parsed out, daily readings). But I’m thinking the Spirit has intended for me to see something of the progression of thought through this teaching sequence of Jesus.

Yesterday, the emphasis was on those blessed servants whose head was in the game when the Master returns. Those who were awake. Those who were faithfully occupied with the Master’s work. Who did not see the Master’s delay as reason to eat, drink, and be merry. But, knowing that the Master would “come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does now know” (12:46a), the blessed servant labored diligently knowing he would give an account for what had been entrusted to him (12:48b).

And this morning Jesus deals a bit with the Master’s coming and the need to interpret the present time.

[Jesus] also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”

(Luke 12:54-56 ESV)

Jesus told the story of the rich fool to the crowd to warn them about being caught up in the material and temporal. He then turned to His disciples to talk of ravens and lilies and the propensity for even needful things to distract from seeking first the greater things. Exhorting the twelve toward wakeful faithfulness in anticipation of one day giving an account to the Master. And then, today, He turns again to the crowd and talks about the weather.

They were bright enough that when they saw clouds rising in the west, from over the Mediterranean, they knew that rain was coming. Cared enough to take note of southerly winds blowing to prepare for a soon-coming heat wave. But have the Son of God in their midst — the promised Messiah . . . teaching as no one had ever taught . . . performing signs and wonders . . . healing and casting out demons . . . doing works obviously sourced in the divine — and they were clueless. Adept at interpreting “earth and sky”, they were oblivious when it came to interpreting the present time.

And you have to think, given Jesus’s hard, “hypocrite” rebuke, it wasn’t because of their inability to pick up on such things, but because of their unwillingness. Not because they weren’t able to have eyes to see, but because they preferred to wear a blindfold when it came to signs of the time.

Jesus was in their midst, but they preferred to continue to live for themselves. The kingdom of heaven had come, but they were content to pursue the ways of the world. True righteousness for eternity was their’s for the receiving, but instead they opted “to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Heb. 11:25b KJV). It’s not that they couldn’t interpret the present time, it’s that they wouldn’t. For to do so would impact barns and such.

I’ve had more than a few people ask me over the past few months if I think the events of our unprecedented 2020 are signs that Jesus is coming back soon. And my answer, not to be trite or dismissive, has quickly been, “Of course!” Because I believe His return is imminent. But what “soon” is, I have no idea — for “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2Pet. 3:8).

But how do we not look at what’s happening in our world and believe God’s doing something big? Time to wake up. Time to put overflowing barns into perspective. Time to acknowledge God’s faithfulness in putting food on the table, clothes on our back, and to focus our attention on laying up treasure in heaven. Time to stay alert. Remain focused. To keep on stewarding the time, talents, and treasures He has given us.

Could Jesus come back tomorrow? I’m thinkin’. Could tomorrow be a long, long ways away when the turbulence of 2020 is but a few paragraphs in a history book? Could be. Does that change my focus and priorities for today? Shouldn’t.

Seek first the kingdom. Be ready for the Master’s return. Be awake when He comes.

” . . . for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

(Luke 12:40 ESV)

Lord, give us eyes to see and hears to hear so that we are able to interpret the present time.

By Your grace. For Your glory.

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Snoozin’

“I’ll take parable connections for 300, Alex.”

“Okay. The common condition of those who, because they are rich, are consumed incessantly with building bigger barns, and those who, because they are not so rich, are preoccupied continually with putting food on their table and clothes on their back.”

“Uh . . . what is snoozin”?”

“Correct!”

Not sure why, exactly, but over these past few days it’s been Luke 12 in my reading plan that continues to capture my thoughts over the other readings for the day. So, here’s part three in stories about keeping the main thing the main thing.

And today’s reading seems to be the concluding story. The story which identifies the dangerous, common condition of those distracted by the material world — regardless of whether that distraction is driven by how to live in abundance or, driven by how to survive amid scarcity.

“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. . . . You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

(Luke 12:35-37a, 40 ESV)

After His story about a rich fool (Lk. 12:13-21), and then His story about ravens and lilies (Lk. 12:22-34), Jesus concludes this trilogy of parables with a story about blessed servants (Luke 12:35-48). And who is the blessed servant? The one who the master finds awake when he comes again. The one who’s not snoozin’.

This blessed servant stands in contrast to the rich man who, while he pursued how to maximize the good life, failed to lay up treasure for himself for the after life. Because his possessions ultimately possessed him, he wasn’t ready for the night when his soul was required of him and he was translated into a different economy — one in which the “rich man” was “not rich toward God.” Because, though he was busy accumulating wealth and building barns, he wasn’t “awake.” He was snoozin’.

And blessed servants also stands in contrast to the not so rich, those who are anxious about how they are going to feed and clothe themselves. As such, they pursue what their Father already knew they needed to the exclusion of seeking the Father and His kingdom. Thus, also failing to provide themselves with “treasure in the heavens that does not fail.” And how come? They were so busy earning a temporal living that they fell asleep at the eternal wheel. They too were snoozin’.

But blessed servants are those who are awake when the master returns. Though they are just as busy and preoccupied as the rich and not so rich, they are dressed for action with lamps burning doing what the master has asked them to do while the master is away. Occupying themselves with his charge on their lives. Resisting the temptation to allow the master’s delay to shift their focus away from faithful service towards self-fulfillment. They are not snoozin’. Their heads are in the game. They’re awake.

And that’s why they enjoy the Master’s blessing. That’s how they lay up treasure in heaven. That’s how they become rich toward God.

Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants!

(Luke 12:37-39 ESV)

Not snoozin’ . . . by His grace.

Awake, with our heads in the game . . . for His glory.

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Ravens and Lilies

Old familiar teaching. Fresh new meaning. In the past, it has evoked a warm-fuzzy feeling and a sense of profound gratitude. This morning, for some reason (me thinks a Spirit led reason), it provokes a heightened sense of awareness and a bit of soul searching. Who knew ravens and lilies could do such things?

Continuing to read in Luke 12 this morning. And what hits me initially is that, while the audience and illustrations are different, what I’ve just read is but a continuation from yesterday. Then, Jesus was talking to a crowd when He told them the parable of a rich fool. This morning, He’s talking to His disciples, to His inner circle, and tells them stories from nature. And I realize that, in essence, he’s talking to them about the same thing.

His followers weren’t necessarily entrapped by what to do with the harvests of overflowing fields. Their’s wasn’t “the problem” of having such wealth that, on a whim, they could build more barns so they could set themselves up to sit on their keisters, eat, drink, and be merry. No, they were unemployed fishermen, tax collectors, and such. Instead of worrying over how to silo an abundance of wealth, their daily anxieties were more likely to be spawned by how to put food on the table and keep clothes on their back.

And what hits me afresh this morning is that, regardless of whether it’s covetousness for an abundance of possessions (12:15) because you have overflowing barns, or whether it’s covetousness for daily bread and clothing because you don’t have two coins to rub together, either way it can deflect from the main thing being the main thing. From laying up treasure in heaven (12:21a). From being rich toward God (12:21b). From seeking first the kingdom (12:31a). From storing up “moneybags” for eternity (12:33b).

Yesterday, Jesus identified the problem of bad soul talk. But this morning he points to the remedy of ravens and lilies.

And [Jesus] said to His disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! . . . Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith!”

(Luke 12:22-24, 2-28 ESV)

Sure, it’s encouraging to know that we are of more value than ravens. And it’s comforting that the God who clothes the lilies which He created, says He’ll clothe the children He has re-created by His Son’s finished work on the cross. But beyond encouragement and comfort we need conviction — that God means it! That He’s got us. That He’s really got us! That our daily needs, in fact, rank high among His daily concerns. That anxieties about what the day may bring — especially these days — need to be given to the One who feeds ravens and clothes lilies, so that we are not tempted to enter so much into self-preservation mode that we cease being in kingdom-seeking mode. That our concerns for daily safety don’t extinguish our desire to store up treasure in heaven.

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

(Luke 12:34 ESV)

Hmm. Ravens and lilies. Worth noodling on. The Father’s promise of daily provision and protection. Worth believing in. Heaven’s coming kingdom. Worth living for.

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

(Luke 12:32 ESV)

By His grace. For His glory.

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